Microsystems Technology Laboratories

The Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL) conduct research and education with an intellectual core of semiconductor industry process and device technology, and integrated circuits and systems design. MTL also leverages its infrastructure to foster new initiatives at the Institute and to support the general micro- and nano-fabrication needs of MIT.

The MTL carries out graduate and undergraduate research activities in circuits and systems that are built using microsystems technology for applications such as wireless sensing networks and intelligent vision systems. Additionally, researchers are investigating the fabrication and study of small (i.e., micrometer to nanometer) structures and their use for the implementation of interesting integrated devices from nanometer-scale electronic devices to optical switches to displays to biosensors to micropower generators. The MTL facilities include laboratory space for electronics test and assembly, computation and communication, and microfabrication. The MTL microfabrication facilities include three clean rooms with a total of 6,500 sq.ft.; the state-of-the-art class-10 Integrated Circuits Laboratory, the flexible process environment Technology Research Laboratory, and the Exploratory Materials Laboratory. In AY2002, the MTL fabrication facilities were utilized by approximately 350 students and staff. The laboratory manages a contract research volume of approximately $7 million per year. In addition, approximately $30 million of contract research (managed in other departments/labs/centers) supporting 45 faculty and senior research staff utilizes the MTL facilities as an integral part of their research. The fabrication and computation facilities of the MTL are maintained and operated by a full time technical staff of 21 technicians and engineers.

Beyond the research programs, the MTL support several educational initiatives that leverage the research infrastructure of the labs. Chief amongst these is the undergraduate microfabrication laboratory, a lecture/laboratory course in which 120 students per year are afforded the opportunity to microfabricate an electronic device in the state-of-the-art MTL facilities. Additionally, we offer a project laboratory for team-based design of microfabricated structures. The Technology Demonstration Laboratory, developed by Professor Sodini, is housed in MTL and provides EECS MEng students the chance to work on thesis topics with a technology integration and demonstration focus. Lastly, via the i-Campus Initiative, Professor del Alamo is developing a series of web-based laboratory tools that permit testing of microfabricated structures.

MTL maintains a strong and vibrant interaction with industries that value not only the research output, but also the students that are educated in state-of-the-art microsystems technology. The MTL facilities are supported in part by industry through the MIT Microsystems Industrial Group (MIG), whose current members include Advanced Micro Devices, Analog Devices, Applied Materials, IBM, Intel Corporation, Agere, Motorola, Inc. National Semiconductor, Novellus Systems, Texas Instruments, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation. Three industry-funded centers are also housed in the MTL; the Center for Integrated Circuits and Systems, the Intelligent Transportation Research Center, and MEMS @ MIT.


The upgrade of the MTL fabrication facilities to six-inch wafer processing capability has been fully completed this year. This upgrade positions the MTL community to perform leading edge research with a tool set that is not matched by any research university in the world. The upgrade cost more than $13 million, with $12 million of these costs supported by donations of cash and state-of-the-art tools by our MIG. The completion of the upgrade and several other tool installations bring the installed capital base of tools in MTL to approximately $50 million. This year we recorded the highest process activity ever in the history of MTL, a testament to the utility of this tool base.

MTL played an active roll in the successful award of the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) at MIT. The shared experimental facilities of MTL will be utilized by this new center, and in addition, MTL will create space for dedicated ISN equipment within the Building 39 envelope.

This year we implemented a new program to assist the transfer of technologies developed in MTL. Specifically, we have created a trial program that affords companies that have licensed technology developed in MTL to utilize the MTL facilities for a transition phase. The intent is to provide access to expensive facilities in an incubation phase while these companies establish finances and facilities of their own. We are trying this program with MicroCHIPS, Inc. (www.mchips.com). The drug delivery technology that is the core of this company was developed in the MTL facilities. As part of the program, MicroCHIPS personnel are working in the MTL facilities in return for payment of fees which support the cleanroom.

Professor Mike Perrott joined the laboratory faculty this year. In his research, he focuses on high-speed circuit and signal processing techniques for data links and wireless applications. Mike compliments a strong team of faculty (Chandrakasan, Lee, and Sodini) working in the integrated systems area of the lab.

Work continued to identify overlap in microfabrication needs between MTL and the MIT Microphotonics Center. Many opportunities exist for sharing of resources and leveraging existing infrastructure, and we will continue to work in cooperation to identify these opportunities. In the near term, we are working on a plan to integrate several key microphotonics process tools into the MTL space. These exciting additions will compliment and expand the fabrication capabilities of the MTL.

Future Plans

The MTL research and education initiatives have expanded by approximately 10 fold in the past 15 years without a significant growth in the space allocation to the laboratory. This has created intense pressure on researchers in the laboratory and has forced us to continuously work to optimize the use of space in the laboratory. It is clear the primary limitation on growth of the laboratory into logical new research areas is paced by the availability of space to accommodate this growth, and funding to support the shared infrastructure. As part of our strategic planning process, we have identified four primary initiatives. First, we want to maintain a preeminent micro/nanofabrication infrastructure for the Institute. Second, we want to foster new initiatives at the Institute that leverage this infrastructure. Third, we want to promote interactions between the circuits/systems community and the micro/nanofabrication community in MTL. Fourth, we want to develop a more diversified funding structure to support the MTL infrastructure. As part of this plan, we have some immediate actions as detailed below.

We will add process tools, particularly in support of the MicroPhotonics program. In addition, we will be adding space and capability for nanoscale fabrication under the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies. We will continue to explore opportunities to improve MTL's ability to serve the campus micro/nano fabrication needs. Part of this includes pursuit of new revenue streams to underwrite the infrastructure.

We will continue to explore mechanisms to produce intellectually vibrant links between the two primary research constituents of the lab—the circuits and systems design community and the micro/nanofabrication community. In addition, we will continue to pursue opportunities for crosscutting research that leverages the intellectual infrastructure of the MTL.

Martin A. Schmidt
Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

More information about the Microsystems Technology Laboratories can be found on the web at http://www-mtl.mit.edu/.


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